Nous l’avons tant aimée, la révolution égyptienne
Moody’s upgraded Turkey to investment status this week. The same institution downgraded Egypt in March of this year for the sixth time since January 2011, the start of the revolution. That is why the Egyptian revolution nowadays reminds me of the title of Daniel Cohn-Bendit’s biography, roughly translated as “We loved it so much, the Revolution.” Cohn-Bendit did not deny his role in the Paris student revolt of 1968 when explaining his move to a more centrist political position. I wonder whether the Egyptians are of the same opinion when it comes to their revolution. It might have been good, but perhaps it is better to leave revolutionary zeal in the past. They’ve had their fun since January 2011. It’s time to get back to work.
I get the same sense of frustration out of the new Pew Global Research Survey of Egyptian public opinion. Only 30 percent of Egyptians are satisfied with the way things are going in their country. That number was at a lousy 28 percent in 2010, during the Hosni Mubarak era, then improved to 65 percent in 2011 when Egyptians had high hopes of change. It declined to 53 percent in 2012, and is now back to square one. Why this feeling of dissatisfaction? Ask the Egyptians about the top priorities of their country at the moment. You get “improved economic conditions” from 83 percent of the respondents. Then comes a number of rule of law priorities: 81 percent want a fair judiciary, for 61 percent it is law and order. The standard of living and public safety have the highest “getting worse” answers from respondents with 56 percent and 44 percent, respectively. So the Egyptians seemed to have loved their revolution, but would now like get it over with. The demand for law and order is there to stay, if you ask me, and that is good news for President Mohamed Morsi. A demand for law and order always works in favor of those in power and against the opposition. It is hard for an opposition to be constructive and harder still in Egypt. Incidentally, Morsi’s approval is also still around 53 percent. The political constellation makes him irreplaceable, yet Egypt politics is deeply divided.
That puts any real economic reform out of reach. Egypt could not get a much-needed $4.8 billion from the IMF as the parties were unable to finalize an agreement over the last 18 months. Badly designed subsidies still eat up about 20 percent of the budget and the deficit is soaring. Structural reforms are being delayed, as President Morsi lacks the agility to establish a more inclusive governance structure. Divisive politics is a dead end when it comes to any real reform agenda. Egypt nowadays seems to be divided into two. Not good for bold decisions and actions.
Everyone acknowledges the need for reform, yet inaction lingers. The powers-that-be in Egypt are more and more beginning to display an Oblomov-type inability to make important decisions when it comes to outside observers.